WINNIPEG'S EXCHANGE DISTRICT
Winnipeg's Exchange District comprises a twenty-block area
of turn of the century warehouse and commercial structures.
Located just north of Portage and Main and straddling both
sides of Main St., this collection of masonry and terra
cotta buildings is considered unique in North America.
Within forty years of the city's founding these veritable
Pyramids of the Prairie sprung up. You can stand in its
centre, Old Market Square Park and turn 360 degrees. Only
a small angle of the circle would reveal buildings younger
than 1900. For all you know it could be 1882 or 1910.
My name is George Siamandas. Like many I arrived as an immigrant
in Winnipeg's CN Station. For the last 11 years I have been
involved in promoting Winnipeg's heritage buildings. Now
I would like to take you on a tour and show you people and
places that make this area so exciting. We are at the centre
of what became the city of Winnipeg in 1872 these are the
oldest remaining buildings on the western edge of where Winnipeg
began to grow. Winnipeg soon came to be called the Chicago
of the north. And Winnipeg shared not only the same distribution
role based on being a railway hub, but also the prevailing
architectural styles of Chicago.
During the first period of Winnipeg's growth between the
1880s and 1903 most buildings were built in the Victorian
style. Very simply this means that they were embellished
with intricate detail in their brick and stonework.
The first Grain Exchange building built in 1892 is a good
example of this ornamental style. The cornices, which were
fashioned to look as though they were made of stone, were
actually constructed of stamped metal pressed into intricate
shapes. Architectural elements like these triangular pediments
are frequently found in buildings from this Victorian period.
Just up the street is one of the first old building to see
a new use the Old Spaghetti Factory located at the corner
of Bannatyne and Princess St. Originally part of Maw's Garage
it once served as one of Winnipeg's first car dealerships.
While Main St. is home to the banks and other elegant commercial
buildings, most of the Exchange District is comprised of
warehouses. Most are constructed of yellow brick. The earliest
of these are designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style
with large cut stone limestone foundations and massive
arched windows. As you look up their facades you can see
signs of the period of great growth during which many of
these warehouses saw a series of additions. This required
that the cornices be dismantled and reinstalled leaving
behind ghostly signs of their relocation.
As their original uses ended a series of new owners have
introduced light manufacturing. Garment manufacturing in
particular became a prominent use. In recent decades many
warehouses turned to furniture salesrooms and professional
offices. But in large part these structures with their strong
floor loading capacities, and low occupancy costs continue
in various forms of light manufacturing mingled with businesses
requiring lots of low cost space.